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Updated: Tuesday, 02 Mar 2010, 10:34 PM MST
Published : Tuesday, 02 Mar 2010, 10:34 PM MST
Albuquerque - Tuesday, Gov. Bill Richardson signed a bill to stop double dipping by government workers who retire then come back to work, drawing both their pension and salary.
News 13 Investigative reporter Larry Barker blew the lid off that abuse last year.
State and municipal workers cashing two checks after returning from retirement will be curbed on July 1.
However, the bill has a grandfather clause, meaning workers double-dipping before the July deadline can keep doing it.
After July, retirees returning to work will not be allowed to draw their pension.
There are concerns this will open the floodgates.
"I am concerned that within that period people may rush to come back in on a second retirement, come back in," Rep. Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, said.
“We are going to try to eliminate as many vacant positions as possible, so there is not going to be an opportunity for existing employees to opt-out of their existing position into another state position," Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, said.
There are about 1,500 double dippers and nearly 300 of those are cops or deputies.
Two sheriffs said it will be hard to staff their departments in the future because retirees won't want to work for them if they have to give up their pensions.
“12 percent of our deputies are rehired deputies, all of our court security and all of our court transport officers are rehired retirees," Sheriff Greg Solano with Santa Fe County said.
It's a similar story in Torrance County, which only has 13 deputies.
“Right now we have three return to work employees.” Sheriff Clarence Gibson said. “I am really upset that we are going to see this come down to the way it is.”
Both sheriffs said their double-dippers can actually save money and lives, because young, new deputies cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars to train, and they lack experience.
"I know that there are people who abuse double dipping but law enforcement has never really in that category," Solano said.
Undersheriffs, police chiefs and elected officials are exempt in the bill.
Critics have said double dippers not only cost the state money, they also hog up jobs that other people want and keep other workers from being promoted.
Under the new law, double dippers will have to pay their share into their pension account; right now the state pays it all.
That's expected to save the state at least $1 million a year.